Most of us are locked in, all of us have lost the chance to socialise, to meet and drink and talk and eat and see music and work out and enjoy things outside the house. But music doesn’t have to stop and The Great Confinement has opened up a chance to explore at home, to dig up old favourites and find new pleasures.
In this series we ask: what music is making you happy. Today, author, musician and lawyer, Bram Presser.
WHAT ALBUMS OR ARTISTS HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING SINCE BEING CONFINED TO HOME?
It feels weird to say this but I’m not really listening to much music. Or at least not as much as I usually do or would like to. Thanks to my shitty health we’ve had to keep our daughter home from creche, so I’m spending the majority of my time trying to keep her happy/occupied/oblivious to the whole pandemic situation. When I do listen, I tend to go for something upbeat. So, it’s mostly either jangly indie pop like Ash, Weezer, PUP, The Libertines or Fountains of Wayne, or punk. Lots of Bad Religion, NOFX, Good Riddance and Propagandhi getting blasted through the house to keep me pumped while cooking, washing dishes and doing the laundry.
WHICH HAVE BEEN GETTING MULTIPLE SPINS?
A few standouts – The new Spanish Love Songs record, Brave Faces Everyone, just floored me. It’s as if modern existential defeatism has been distilled and channelled into ten incredible songs. Every time a new album I want to listen to is released, I get about three tracks in and go back to SLS. Easily my album of the year. I’m also really digging the new Homeless Gospel Choir album, This Land is Your Landfill. It’s almost a companion piece to the SLS, but has more open defiance and humour about it. Really, a perfect (and unexpected) evolution of their folk punk roots.
I’m a huge musical theatre nerd, so I’m also playing the crap out of Dear Evan Hansen which, I think, is the best new musical of the past 15 years. I was lucky enough to see it on Broadway and listening to it brings back memories of a really great time touring the book with my partner and our daughter before the world turned to shit.
Others on high rotation: the new 3 CD Best of Ash, Happy/Sad by Circa Waves, Pinkerton by Weezer, Up The Bracket by The Libertines, Morbid Stuff by PUP, Today’s Empires Tomorrow’s Ashes by Propagandhi, Angel Dust by Faith No More and Let Your Dim Light Shine by Soul Asylum.
WHAT ALBUM FROM YOUR PAST HAVE YOU REDISCOVERED? WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
A mate of mine has this cool Instagram thing going where he recommends a “great album” each day; some old, some new (@the_daily_recordmmendation). He keeps setting me all these ridiculous music challenges, which often see me combing my entire collection to come up with half-decent responses. Needless to say, it’s turned out to be a bonanza of rediscovery. Lots of old metal (Armoured Saint, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Queensryche), grunge (Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Hole) and indie rock (Dogs D’Amour, The Wildhearts, Manic Street Preachers).
But the one that has just blown me away is Recipe For Hate by Bad Religion. It’s always had killer songs, but it sounded like mud. The production was just rubbish. Now it’s been remastered by Jason at Blasting Room and it sounds fresh and crisp and just fucking unbelievable. It’s got my all-time favourite Bad Religion song, Don’t Prey On Me (probably one of the greatest pieces of lyrical wizardry ever put to music), a bunch of others that rank up there for me (Skyscraper, Man With A Mission, My Poor Friend Me) and it came out in a period when Bad Religion were flirting with cool musos from other genres so we get Eddie Vedder on Kerosene and Johnette Napolitano on Struck A Nerve. What an album!
HAVE YOU FOUND NEW MUSIC? WHAT’S EXCITED YOU ABOUT IT?
I’m way behind on my new music consumption. I reckon I’ve bought about twenty albums that I have yet to give a proper spin. But I’m loving this band called QWAM who are like the lovechild of early No Doubt, Bikini Kill and FIDLAR. It sounds so fresh and fun. James Bradley got me into Beach Bunny who kind of have a similar vibe to QWAM but with their foot off the pedal. Their album, Honeymoon, is smart and catchy and just cool to crank around the house.
I’m also super loving some new albums by bands that I thought had lost their spark a while back but who have come back with a vengeance, giving us records that rank up there with the best of their careers: Some Freaks Of Atavism by Screeching Weasel, ALPHABETLAND by X (35 years after their last release), Revolution Spring by The Suicide Machines and The Aging Punk by The Reaganomics.
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC TO FLATTEN YOUR (ANXIETY) CURVE?
It sounds counterintuitive but I find punk and speed metal the best way to calm down. I think slow or mellow music makes me anxious: like, come on, kick into gear already. I have the attention span of a goldfish. So yeah, that or showtunes. Gimme Strike Anywhere, Rise Against, Dragonforce and the 1992 Australian Cast Recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. Or the perfect combination thereof: Me First And The Gimme Gimmes’ Are A Drag – punk covers of showtunes! It doesn’t get any better than that.
Bram Presser is a lapsed criminal lawyer, recovering punk rocker and one-time cartoon character. His debut novel, The Book of Dirt (Text Publishing), won the 2018 Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction in the US National Jewish Book Awards, the 2018 Voss Literary Prize and three awards in the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and The People’s Choice Award.